“The decision by the minister for social development was, in my opinion, absolutely correct..”

In the Assembly today, in response to a question from Alliance Party Leader David Ford “demanding a commitment from the entire power-sharing executive that it would end the funding which was linked to UDA disarmament”, NI Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, clarified both his position and that of the Executive

The Mid Ulster MP told Mr Ford: “I think this is an issue that has been marked more by fiction than fact. Let me be absolutely clear. I – and I believe I also speak for everyone in the Executive – am totally and absolutely opposed to any funding whatsoever going to the UDA, whether they decommission their weapons or not. The funding introduced by (former Northern Ireland Secretary) Peter Hain was irregular. It was wrong and it should never have happened. The decision by the minister for social development was, in my opinion, absolutely correct.”

And Mark Devenport notes events in the Committee

Also this afternoon Gregory Campbell summoned Margaret Ritchie to the Social Development Committee to answer questions about axing funding to a UDA linked project. But if it sounded like a Kangaroo court in advance, the Committee turned into a “kiss and make up” session, with both politicians sounding like they wanted to move on when they spoke to us after the meeting. Perhaps the SDLP minister’s critics are beginning to realise there are diminishing returns for them in prolonging this row.

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  • slug

    I see the DUP have also changed their emphasis in the press release “DUP POSITION:‘NOT A PENNY TO PARAMILITARIES'”

  • Look who blinked first!

  • Nevin

    Give Sammy the floor!!

  • Tkmaxx

    The reality is there is apparently more to come – Ritchie may have more up the sleeve. She got a positive response in Derry on Friday and a ringing endorsement by GAA folk at the weekend. The tragic murder of this young south armagh man – is an event neither the DUP or SF could have anticipated. Who runs the country -those in favour of law and order or those in favour of points of order?

  • brendan,belfast

    Why is Sammy Wilson waiting to hear from the Minister what she intends to do in his area to support socio economic projects? why isn’t he battering her door down demanding action, rather than sitting back ‘waiting on the Minister?’

  • Thanks, Nevin @ 09:54 PM, I really enjoyed that link.

    I particularly relished that sentence: It angers me that SDLP politicians and others should be engaging in a deliberate campaign of misinformation over the issue of the Conflict Transformation Initiative.

    In this context, may I draw attention to the best definition of Sammy’s ploy, illustrated here, but borrowed from the newsrooms of Wapping:

    Many Americans are confused by English tabloid newspapers, which is the thing that the New York Post most resembles. In particular they don’t understand the tabloid maneuver known as the reverse ferret. English tabloids are news-driven creatures, built upon a hard core of self-righteous cruelty and inexhaustible moral indignation, which may be leavened to a greater or lesser extent by an audacious sense of humor. When the humor works, the tabloid can be very funny, or at least roguish. The newspaper — and this is important — is never wrong. Kelvin McKenzie, probably the world’s greatest tabloid editor (certainly the most obnoxious), used to stalk the newsroom urging his reporters generally to annoy the powers that be, to “put a ferret up their trousers.” He would do this until the moment it became clear that in the course of making up stories, inventing quotes, invading people’s privacy, and stepping on toes, the Sun had committed some truly hideous solecism — like running the wrong lottery numbers — when he would rush back to the newsroom shouting, “Reverse ferret!” This is the survival moment, when a tabloid changes course in a blink without any reduction in speed, volume, or moral outrage. In the midst of a disaster of its own making, it pulls a ferret out of a hat and sails on. It’s an equal combination of miraculous escape, misdirection, and a new start. It’s no accident that McKenzie perfected this at the Sun …

    (That’s from Neil Chenoweth’s biography of Rupert Murdoch, and I’ve been aching to use the quotation in some context, however barely relevant. Sorry about US spellings: they’re in my original.)

  • David Ford

    I welcome today’s statement of full support for the Social Development Minister from the Deputy First Minister (SF), and the DUP’s “not a penny”. This follows welcome support for Margaret Ritchie from the UUP at last Thursday’s Executive.

    However, I also remember that last Tuesday, when she made her statement, the Minister was bitterly criticised by Peter Robinson (DUP), a succession of Sinn Fein MLAs claimed she had funded the UDA, and there was a deafening silence from the UUP.

    The only MLAs outside the SDLP to support Margaret in the Assembly chamber were Stephen Farry, Naomi Long and myself. Some of us don’t have to wait to see how the wind blows before we do what we think is right.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “am totally and absolutely opposed to any funding whatsoever going to the UDA, whether they decommission their weapons or not.”
    Art Garfunkle McGuinness

    And you wonder why Loyalists feel we are being treated as second-class citizens, when his Provos were wined, dined, courted and charmed into surrendering their munitions in return for ruling our land…

  • Turgon

    It does look as if the attempt to rein in Ritchie has been aborted or at least down played.

    As multiple other threads have suggested the reasoning behind all this seems quite complex.

    It would appear that Peter Robinson felt the need to exert some authority over Ritchie though on exactly what grounds he has this right is unclear. The most convincing agrument to my mind is that he negotiated a form of albeit weak collective responsibility and for Ritchie to have destroyed this would have greatly weakened his credibility amongst the DUP. As such he felt forced to attack Ritchie as he did. SF’s reasons were probably more to do with politicing between the SDLP and SF and in particular the need to damage Ritchie as a potential Westminister candidate (and effective minister). In addition they may well have judged that the DUP would get into all sorts of problems to do with hypocrisy and I would not doubt that SF would find the DUP’s discomfort pleasing.

    What seems to have stopped the whole show, however, is the fact that quite clearly the public of all sides are very behind Ritchie and she has made a good if not perfect job of presenting her case on the media. The general public might care about the niceties of collective responsibility but do, it would seem, care a great deal more about the UDA being given money. I presume that the DUP and SF have both made the calculation that to continue to hound Ritchie is politically damaging. In SF’s case it helps the SDLP. In the DUP’s it may help the UUP and the prodiban. As such it is less painful to allow Ritchie to get away with any slight breach of the ministeral code (if indeed there actually was one). The row, if put to bed now, is probably short term enough to result in minimal damage to the DUP and SF.

    The major loser might, however, be Robinson as; if his attempts to impose collective responsibility are shown to be fruitless, it will not go unnoticed by the DUP rank and file that one of the trumpeted victories won at St. Andrews may not be such a great triumph after all. It would probably have been wiser for Robinson to pick a topic where the public would be less whole heartedly behind the minister he is trying to “discipline”; though I suppose he felt since this was the first major challenge to collective responsibility to do nothing would have set a precedent. Still I suspect Robinson is the major loser here.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Concerned Loyalist: “And you wonder why Loyalists feel we are being treated as second-class citizens, when his Provos were wined, dined, courted and charmed into surrendering their munitions in return for ruling our land… ”

    Aw….

    Mayhap if your godfathers had something resembling political support, things like this wouldn’t happen.

    Loyalism doesn’t even have a kiddie-seat at the political table… esp. with the DUP realizing that throwing themselves on this political grenade would be political suicide.

  • URQUHART

    There was only ever going to be one winner in this. Well done to Margaret Ritchie for holding her ground.

    Also well done to David Ford for recognising and welcoming what was the right thing to do.

    Watch now how SF show how they’re actually ANTI paramilitary and the DUP show that they’re anti ALL paramilitaries equally. Both show that they’re equally bereft of any integrity. But at least they’re windiing their necks in, which will be welcomed by most reasonable people.

  • The Penguin

    Concerned Loyalist

    Take it up with your local UPRG MLA…oops, sorry about that, I forgot.
    Well then, your local UPRG councill…oops, apologies again.
    Looks like you now have to get votes to count in this here democracy, how unfair. But welcome to the world the rest of us have to inhabit.

  • DC

    Robinson could have said, had he controlled his political acumen over his intrinsic bad mood, that he accepted the position reached by the minister but that in future collective responsibility should be sought regarding issues with legal ramifications likely to place demands on public funds.

    He should have said this if we are to take at face value the comments of Sammy Wilson and political value of the DUP as whole regarding the now disclosed fact that they wouldn’t in way wish to fund any project with open money channels to UDA members.

    In the context of saving money to fund water and keep to rates low, Robinson could have put the case that the minister ought to ensure that while working in an executive she should have considered seeking collective agreement come consensus, which in turn may have helped to bolster any defence of NI Plc against at-war loyalist money-seekers.

    However, his behaviour was so bizarre it leads us to believe that he does have serious issues his with his temperament, as such it will likely damage any potential to become leader of the DUP given the now obvious dislike of him by those in the wider public and perhaps those in the local political circle. It was very irrational behaviour set against the now clear DUP political logic of not wanting to fund terrorists.

  • Nevin

    Malcolm, I used to post some of Sammy’s contributions on the Beeb – and then the DUP went and introduced a spell checker 🙁

    You may have missed the significance of this:

    There is no question of the DUP supporting money going to the UDA. The argument is one about what constitutes correct and proper behaviour from a Government Minister. Seeking to suggest otherwise is deceitful.

    “… it is great to see him today with his clothes on.”

  • Nevin

    “Mayhap if your godfathers had something resembling political support”

    Sadly, some do, Dread. The endorsement of fascism and mafiaism is bad new news for democracy and a sickener for those on the receiving end of paramilitary ‘law’, or worse.

  • Nevin

    Some done, more to do, Urquhart.

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    How fortunate Ulster is, in the shape of David Ford to have a wonderchild who is always right.

    I think he deserves a halo to hang above his big bald head

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t find the DUP “not a penny” thing very convincing, it’s plainly and obviously an attempt to save face now that the penny has finally dropped – namely that Ritchie’s decision was a popular one and they looked like they were trying to obstruct it.

    It’s a shame the DUP didn’t rally to the objective of cutting the funding when Ritchie issued her deadline. Hopefully the DUP will continue to be supportive of cutting the project in the days and weeks ahead as the Minister’s decision is implemented.

  • The Dubliner

    Public support or not, it was the support of Reg Empey and David Ford that mattered most. The public would have been baffled and bored by the bullshit, just as they’ll buy this latest bullshit that PSF and the DUP supported her decision all along (which is what they will claim, pointing to their ringing endorsement of Ms Ritchie in response to David Ford’s question, if anyone mentions it in a few months hence). It’s amazing how quickly Margaret Ritchie recovered from her alleged mental illness after “losing the run for herself” and regained her moral authority after being dismissed as an alleged pathological liar.

  • Alex S

    Robinson’s triple lock is a little loose, not quite the political operator he thinks he is?

  • veritas

    if this was a boxing match the ref would have stopped it to save dup/sf taking any more punishment. Integrity wins by a tko for Miss Ritchie,Good support from the corner from David Ford Reg Empey and Michael McGimpsey.the dup have found some principles at last-they were in the dictionary just before property developers.

  • Martin

    Folks

    Been peering in on this one for a while, like any concerned citizen, but as a civil servant in the daytime a couple of things strike me.

    1. It breaks my heart to say it, but Robinson et al may well be right. Look at it this way: the department can’t have entered into a contract with the UDA (illegal organisation); they can’t disburse grant except to a ‘legal person’ (my understanding is that all NI govt departments can ONLY act where they have explicit statutory powers, unlike GB and RoI departments); therefore, no action or inaction of the UDA can have any influence on the status of the department’s contractual arrangement with, for example, Farset.

    We’d need to see the grant agreement (and there has to be one) but I can’t see how it can legally say that Dept X will pay Community Group Y cash on condition that illegal organisation Z disarms.

    Farset, and its employees, almost certainly have a robust case in any future judicial review.

    2. To generalise, one of the issues here is amateurism: as a colleague said recently, the MLAs are still wearing L-Plates. Nevertheless, we voted for ’em, and the learning curve is as steep for us as it is for them. Secondly, there’s been a culture of addressing problems in one area via mechanisms designed for altogether different issues: the related cock-up dear to my heart is the attempt to use arts funding to address the issue of ‘cultural’ deprivation in protestant communities whose evangelical beliefs led to their being unable to take up lottery funding! Result? Major under-subscription of this fund, and a pretty significant loss of funds to actual arts projects.

    But there ye go….

  • veritas

    farset were only the managing agency for the cti project and as such would only receive an administration fee each year.how much that is depends on the contract that they have to administer this fund .at a guess 10%.

  • The Dubliner

    Exactly, veritas. And if they have suffered a loss that they are not responsible for (by foolishly hiring staff after they were made aware that the funding was likely to be removed), then they can be compensated for that loss without the need to continue the funding of the UDA. Two seperate issues.

  • 0b101010

    How long do you reckon until the electorate can reason like adults and see that an all-party coalition government is only a better alternative to guerrilla war, not proper governance.

    I’ve long held that the strength and skill of the opposition is often more important than the party in power. Look at the difference in the effectiveness of Labour for their voters depending on which side of the room the party sat, and the complete redundancy of the current silent clock-watching coalition operating in Washington.

    The funding should never have been green-lit in the first place and, excusing that they were mostly unworkable sops to all directions, the first actions of the Executive should have been to resolutely throw out _everything_ direct rule ministers had chucked into the goody bag of social disruption.

    Ritchie was absolutely right in the mind of the electorate to deny this funding; even more so based on her crystal-clear ultimatum. However Robinson, and anyone else there for that matter, is just as right to pull up procedure when there’s a hint colleagues might not be playing by the rules. It’s incredibly important they do, for the sake of the electorate.

    It did look to me, in this instance, to be cheap cooing to a segment of his constituency and playing party political games; either that or a complete, blundering misstep. The Executive should have come out with a statement just like the one Ford coaxed out of everyone and worked out how to drop the funding quickly, legally and neatly.

    Of course, I’ve still to be convinced that they weren’t all just daydreaming for the last load of months and got startled awake by Ritchie’s punchline. Sinn Fein look the most ridiculous of all in that regard.

  • Tkmaxx

    Martin
    The contract does have as an aim a measureable reduction in paramilitary activity in the target areas. The monitoring and evaluation includes information from the ‘project, other sources including the PSNI and IMC’. Now targeting poverty and disadvantage is not normally dependent on an evaluation of the PSNI or the IMC. How where the target areas selected? We know they broke the law by only targeting ‘protestant’ areas but would n’t it be strange if they had not only chosen ‘protestant’ areas but chose areas which reflect the UDA’s brigade structure. If true -so much for working class disadvantaged protestants lucky enough not to be under the cosh of the UDA -but unfortunate enough to be left out of any government relief to assist with their disadvantage.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Secondly, there’s been a culture of addressing problems in one area via mechanisms designed for altogether different issues: the related cock-up dear to my heart is the attempt to use arts funding to address the issue of ‘cultural’ deprivation in protestant communities whose evangelical beliefs led to their being unable to take up lottery funding!

    Martin, sometimes religions are insane and this is a pure example of it, bearing in mind that some of the government money they would receive has been raised, in part, on taxes on the lottery revenues …

  • Aquifer

    “How long do you reckon until the electorate can reason like adults and see that an all-party coalition government is only a better alternative to guerrilla war, not proper governance.”

    ONLY a better alternative? Using firearms to murder people gives anyone a veto on everyone obtaining the social benefits of a modern capitalist economy. If our democracy is a way of simulating this without the weeping widows and body bits in plastic bags it is OK by me.

    The proper governance bit is usually the job of the media and an opposition. Any volunteers?

    Plenty of juicy governance issues about if people can be bothered to analyse them.

  • As Martin says, this episode has been a crash course in How To Do Politics for our inexperienced MLAs. IMO the lessons have been:

    1. In a majority party executive or a voluntary coalition, Margaret Ritchie would not have made the initial statement without knowing her executive colleagues would come in behind her with supportive comments, especially unionists.
    2. But once she’d done it, executive colleagues should have realised instantly that any griping about procedure would make it look as if they were supporting the UDA.
    3. Therefore a rap over the knuckles in private for a somewhat maverick announcement (which I can’t see broke the Ministerial Code in any way) was the only possible response from disgruntled executive colleagues.

    It’s taken a week for some of our MLAs to realise what their prevaricating looks like to the public, especially the DUP and SF although the UUP also took their time to decide what they were going to do. If I were them I would think about employing some new political advisors.

  • DC

    “It breaks my heart to say it, but Robinson et al may well be right. Look at it this way: the department can’t have entered into a contract with the UDA (illegal organisation); they can’t disburse grant except to a ‘legal person’”

    Even still the circumstances surrounding that decision were ones which if a devolved minister had to make under a democratic mandate would likely lead to more stringent contractual obligations of a kind that would ensure stopping of funds when a seeminlgy worthy social cohesion project (in the Secretary of State’s eyes) fails to deliver on its aims.

    The Secretary of State was able to play fast and loose without any electoral repercussions and now with a clear display of violence within those communities which DSD money was pumped into in a bid to reduce tensions, the opposite effect has happened – of which it turns out that the DSD sponsored and perhaps encouraged it to happed re the cash carrot effect.

    It was an ill-conceived arrangement with no democratic conscience involved. So Martin the way in which the SoS’s decision was reached should be opened up to scrutiny because it didn’t necessarily target social need in the best way possible.

  • Nevin

    Well, Margaret, the time has come to raise the roof and have some fun

    Throw away the work to be done; go and get your jim-jams on

    Lose yourself in wild romance; leave the Dourman in a trance

    Big Ian dancing in the street; the yoke’s been lifted, ain’t it sweet

    Everyone’s dancing the Troubles away; come join our parties and see who we pay

    Ain’t it sweet, MLAs you meet; all jimmy-jammying in the street

    Once you get started you can’t sit down; yesterday Belfast, tomorrow South Down

    [with apologies to cousin Lionel]

  • The two previous contributions:
    Jenny @ 09:47 AM
    and
    DC @ 10:07 AM
    — are both valid and thoughtful in themselves. They could further be set as an analysis-exercise for freshmen politics students.

    To my mind, what we have witnessed (and what many contributors, including those two, are increasingly recognising) is that this is the price of the long-term “democratic deficit” from which we have suffered.

    There simply is a lack of governmental experience in our political élite. We have a superfluity of oppositional tactics, learned from years of quibbling over direct rule.

    Meanwhile, the bureaucracy, the civil service, were previously accustomed only to implement policy, but now have to learn to “advise” and implement the decisions of others. And, we, the citizenry, have to come to terms with a new dispensation where matters are debated, fought over and even (often) got wrong by the legislators.

    Churchill, inevitably, is credited with the mot about democracy being a very bad form of government, but all the rest being worse. [Actually both Edmund Burke and Seneca said something similar, long before.] What we seen here is part of “the show that goes on for ever” (and that’s President Jed Bartlet), so we’ll all get used to it in time.

  • joeCanuck

    Validation of Wilson’s maxim-
    A week is a long time in politics

  • Nevin

    Is ‘democratic deficit’ the appropriate term, Malcolm. We’ve certainly had nimbyism from London and Dublin.

    They were content to appease fascism and mafiaism so long as it was largely, though not completely, restricted to here.

    Presumably lots of ‘ne’er-do-wells’ were given immunity from prosecution as the police (and other parts of the justice system) were directed not to ruffle paramilitary feathers without (joint) political clearance; often they could observe but not intervene.

    I still think we need shared sovereignty with a high degree of subsidiarity, including broadly based local community initiatives; the merger of strands 2 and 3 so that the two ‘aspirations’ can be fairly accommodated – and no hiding place for the ne’er-do-wells.

    Paramilitaries aren’t the only problem facing the Executive.

  • Nevin @ 11:53 AM:

    As the great feline philosopher Tom observed to Jerry Mouse (in that memorable seven-minute epic, “The Three Mouseketeers”): “Touché, mon petit chou!” … or should that be “choux”?

  • Nevin

    mes petits choux – you cabbage 🙂

  • Rory

    Please, Malcolm and Nevin! If these endearments continue you two will have to get married in order to ensure Slugger’s continuing respectability.

  • Nice one Adams. Does he really believe that he is speaking for the entire executive? Or is it like that?

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “Well then, your local UPRG councill…oops, apologies again.”
    Posted by The Penguin on Oct 22, 2007 @ 10:52 PM

    There are UPRG members who are Councillors, but they stood as Independents due to the fact the UPRG are not a party, a small fact that seems to have slipped your mind…